WikiLeaks: Truth to Power
“The first serious infowar is now engaged. The field of battle is WikiLeaks. You are the troops.”
– John Perry Barlow Co-Founder, Electronic Frontier Foundation Author of A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace
In the effort to bring anybody who’s been reading up to speed on what I have observed during the unfolding of the WikiLeaks story, I feel that it’s important to address a very specific point. Now that the pressure has intensified on the organization, now that PayPal, Visa, & Mastercard will no longer accept their donations, and the increasingly violent calls for Julian Assange’s assassination remain on record, it would be easy to characterize WikiLeaks as the “Terrorist” organization that our elected officials are attempting to lead us to believe it is. What WikiLeaks has done, has uncovered multiple criminal and illegal acts on the part of the U.S. and other Governments. There has been absolutely zero accountability for these acts, and our mainstream media is intent on only speaking ABOUT the organization and its founder, rather than acting like journalists and reporting the stunning revelations contained in the U.S. Diplomatic Cables.
Every one of the Cables that WikiLeaks has published so far, including redactions, has also been published by major newspapers including The New York Times, London’s The Guardian & Germany’s Der Spiegel. Are we to “go after” them as well? Indeed, legal scholars have concluded that if the Justice Department attempts to prosecute Assange under the Espionage Act, it would set a dangerous precedent. Steven Aftergood, a secrecy expert at the Federation of American Scientists has said: “a prosecution of WikiLeaks would be a horrible precedent that in time would almost certainly be applied to other publishers of controversial information.”
The U.S. Government murdered 21 children one day in Yemen and didn’t tell you about it. Julian Assange did. Who is the criminal?
The State Department imposed an order barring employees from reading the leaked Cables. According to a memo sent out by the Office of Management and Budget: “Classified information, whether or not already posted on public websites or disclosed to the media, remains classified, and must be treated as such by federal employees and contractors.” The Library of Congress, and Columbia University initially followed suit as well. What can we, the United States citizens, possibly do with the information in the Cables that poses a greater threat to national security than the 3 million individuals in the U.S. Army that have been free to access them the entire time? WikiLeaks deftly calls their bluff: “Digital McCarthyism.”
Now, somewhere outside of Plato’s Cave, let’s focus on what are perhaps the most shocking stories to have emerged thus far, that they don’t want you to know about:
Clusterbombs in the UK
Britain has allowed the U.S. to store banned clusterbombs on British soil, after having signed the international convention barring cluster munitions in December of 2008. A Cable revealed that 6 months later, Britain had agreed to keep silent about a deal allowing the U.S. to store cluster bombs there until 2013.
“Terrorist” (ter-uh-rist)/noun: “anyone defying or impeding the will of the U.S. Government with any degree of efficacy” – Glenn Greenwald, Constitutional Attorney and blogger at Salon.com
In the course of the bribery and bullying business as usual, the U.S. applied pressure on Spain to drop a lawsuit brought by the family of a Spanish journalist, Jose Couso, who was killed in the U.S. Military’s 2003 attack on the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad during the Iraq War. A U.S. Army tank fired on the hotel, which was known to have been occupied by over 200 journalists. “Of course we are horrified and outraged by this. Horrified, because we cannot believe that our government and prosecutors conspired with a foreign government to prevent the investigation of what happened to my brother, a Spanish citizen.. It seems we are citizens, or at least a small province, of the empire of the United States.” – Javier Couso, Brother of Jose Couso
“Information is the currency of Democracy” – Thomas Jefferson
The El Masri Case
On December 31st 2003, a German citizen, father of six, Khaled El-Masri, boarded a bus heading to Morocco. He was stopped in Macedonia by border agents who noticed that his name was very similar in sound and spelling, as one of the most wanted Al-Quaeda agents who had been operating in Germany. He was kidnapped and tortured by CIA agents, interrogated regarding his membership in an Islamic cultural center in Germany while tied to a bed. When the top officials discovered they had the wrong man, there was dissension about what to do with him, and he remained in detention for months. Cables reveal that the U.S. warned German authorities not to allow a local investigation into his abduction and rendition. An arrest warrant was issued for 13 CIA agents by prosecutors in Spain, the country they had entered with fake passports. From a Cable: “Issuance of international arrest warrants would have a negative impact on our bilateral relationship.” No charges had ultimately been brought against El-Masri while he was being held.
“America was founded on the belief that speech is sacrosanct, and that the answer to bad speech is not censorship or prosecution, but more speech.” – John Conyers, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee
Double Dealing in Saudi Arabia
Also to be made public by the Cables was the knowledge that Saudi Arabia, our ally, is the world’s largest source of funds for what are deemed “Islamist militant groups such as the Afghan Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba, but the Saudi government is reluctant to stem the flow of money”, to quote Secretary of State Hillary Clinton directly. Beyond the obvious hypocrisy that this situation represents, another question that arises from this information is: What are the precise requirements that cause one to be defined as a militant group?
“Either Capitalism dies, or Mother Earth dies” – Evo Morales, President of Bolivia
Drones on Demand
Step right up and get yer drones, heeaaa.. Perfect for discreetly crushing that pesky political opponent or rising dissident group. And don’t worry ’bout it. Some other foreign Gov. will take unaccountable responsibility anyway. Total permanent warfare has never been easier! As reported in Wired magazine’s Danger Room blog: “WikiLeaks Reveals Everybody’s Christmas List: The World Wants Drones”, The UAE and a number of countries in the Middle East, who continue to line their pockets from lucrative military sales, have been making requests for the armed Predator B drone.
“The very word secrecy is repugnant in a free and open society” – John F. Kennedy
On December 1st, after receiving a phone call the previous day from Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman, Amazon.com caved to the political pressure and ceased to host WikiLeaks. The servers were moved from the U.S. to Sweden, “WikiLeaks servers at Amazon ousted. Free speech the land of the free–fine our $ are now spent to employ people in Europe.”, WikiLeaks responded via their Twitter feed. Shortly thereafter, their EveryDNS account was revoked due to the amount of DDoS hacking attempts allegedly being attempted against the site.
WikiLeaks Cables Reveal “Profound Hatred for Democracy on the Part of Our Political Leadership” – Noam Chomsky, Author and Professor of Linguistics at MIT
Daniel Ellsberg, who began leaking the Pentagon Papers in 1971, who worked alongside Howard Zinn & Noam Chomsky to redact and publish his findings, and who skyrocketed to internet fame when his interview on Democracy Now! was featured on the front page of WikiLeaks, has issued an open letter to Amazon.com to disassociate himself with the company and condemn its cowardice.
“WikiLeaks is the first global Samizdat movement. The truth will surface even in the face of total annihilation.” – WikiLeaks
So far, WikiLeaks itself has been cautious about it’s outside endorsements. Their Twitter feed has functioned as a public Red Telephone which has allowed them to immediately respond to any misperceptions by the mainstream media and keep things warm by the fireside chat. When Twitter was asked if they plan to cancel @WikiLeaks they at first didn’t comment. Twitter’s Trending Topics algorithm has proven handy for preventing the story from going viral, as it has not appeared on the home page despite at some points receiving hundreds of tweets a minute. Although, Michael Moore was speaking out: “Oh-oh. Wikileaks will now go after the REAL power. Have in their possession 5GB of secret docs from BankofAmerica! http://mmflint.me/g9FnwB” and some of his Tweets did in fact make it to Twitter’s home page during the crucial early days of the leak. Michael Moore had also agreed to put up $21,000 of his own money to guarantee Assange’s bail.
“Some governments deal with us because they fear us, some because they respect us, most because they need us. We are still essentially, as has been said before, the indispensable nation.” – Robert Gates, U.S. Secretary of Defense
A brilliant example of the way Assange threaded the needle and played the media against itself, he floated an early criticism that Wired magazine was against the WikiLeaks cause, which prompted them to respond on October 18, 2010 with the article: “No, We Don’t Hate WikiLeaks” in its defense. So of course, when the leaks started pouring out a week and a half later, Wired seemed to be compelled to take the new info as a face-value scoop, and began publishing stories that many other media outlets would not touch.
Wolf Blitzer, one of the most respected journalists in the country, was outraged that the leaks might force him to actually do his job. Don’t worry, he didn’t take the bait. His angle on the WikiLeaks issue was about how the U.S. Government was going to prevent future leaks, oblivious that he was sending the message to his audience that he had no intention of granting justification to any of the stories emerging from the Cables, regardless of how shocking or incriminating. “Do we know yet if they’ve [done] that fix? In other words, somebody right now who has top secret or secret security clearance can no longer download information onto a C.D. or a thumb drive? Has that been fixed already?” he said.
The Economist was publicly split in half for perhaps the very first time, after publishing the article “WikiLeaks degenerates into gossip” on November 29th, 2010 that was absolutely ripped to shreds in the comments section. The readers weren’t buying it. Later that afternoon, a second article came out: “In Defense of WikiLeaks”. Difficult to recalibrate a political position so quickly when you don’t have control over how the story unfolds. Democracy is dangerous to established power.
“Reporters Without Borders can only condemn this determination to hound Assange and reiterates its conviction that WikiLeaks has a right under the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment to publish these documents and is even playing a useful role by making them available to journalists and the greater public.”
I’m not writing this for those so cynical that they say: “The Government lies to us all the time. It’s always been that way. There’s nothing you can do.” I’m talking to you, Gen Y, who can’t afford to be so pessimistic about the future. The answers will come from a democratic dialogue.
To not speak out about this, is to deliberately choose the political and economic status quo, which is also to choose unsustainable levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which will destroy the life sustaining biosphere that is our home. The generation that is currently in power, and which is currently too cowardly to even admit what is happening, and has chosen to deny reality and the rule of law, does not care about our generation, and will not care about the destructive effects of climate change until it is far too late. Yes, that’s how I’m going to bias this article. We need to stop investing in war and start investing in clean energy. It’s the right thing to do. We’ve been calling for it the whole time. And now we have the impetus. Congress: You cannot remain this far out of touch and continue to run the country. It is unsustainable. Just like any levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere beyond 350 parts per million.
From now on, I’m not going to live in a world that doesn’t include a Julian Assange to inspire us to speak our minds. To speak truth to power.